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Delightful Dartmouth – A Cruising Must!

After sailing from Torquay we spent a few nights on the DA walk ashore visitors pontoon in Dartmouth. As it was the bank holiday Jubilee weekend the town was awash with Union Jack bunting, and many yachts and boats got in on the action by flying rows of nautical flags, all of which just added to the beauty of this delightful little town!

Nautical Bunting on Yachts

Mooring up in Dartmouth

DA Pontoon is conveniently located opposite Coronation Park, just a short stroll up from the main town. It cost us £2.41 per metre (£1.46 per metre plus 95p per metre harbour dues), per night (June 2022). There is another walk ashore pontoon available on the inside of the Town Jetty pontoon, although this area is a bit of a spectators sport! 😬 The Town Jetty is a little more at £3.50 per metre (£2.55 per metre plus 95p per metre harbour dues), per night, but does include electric and water. There was no water or electric available on DA pontoon. You can also moor up on the outside of the Town Jetty after 5pm and until 8.45am the next morning, again for £3.50 per metre, per night. In addition to the walk ashore pontoons, Dartmouth also has a number of non-walk ashore pontoons, a main anchorage area, and of course numerous marina’s including Darthaven Marina, Dart Marina and Premier Marina. Further up the river there are a number of visitor mooring buoys and additional anchorage areas. Even if you anchor you must pay the harbour dues of 95p per metre, per night. Full details of pricing can be found on the Dart Harbour website. If you anchor in the main anchorage you are required to be onboard during the turn of the tide, and are not to leave your boat unattended until you are sure that you are holding good.

Despite it being a long bank holiday weekend the pontoons were fairly quiet and whilst we had expected to be rafted, this wasn’t the case. Surprisingly our pontoon did not have refuse facilities, rubbish had to be taken to the refuse pontoon in the middle of the harbour. A rubbish pontoon is a great idea for those out on non walk ashore or swing moorings, but as we were basically ‘tied’ to the land we hadn’t launched our dinghy, and didn’t really want to (rather lazily!). We had wrongly assumed that there would be bins on or near the pontoon. Therefore we had to stow it onboard until we could take the ‘big boat’ over, which we did as we left Dartmouth. The refuse pontoon also has water access but, as we learnt, Sunday afternoon’s at this pontoon get rather busy, plus it can only really hold 2 boats at a time, unless you raft. In fact we had to ‘loiter’ for around 30 minutes just to get on, although we did get to spot a seal chilling out on one of the buoys!

Next to the water/rubbish pontoon is a fuel barge with an alongside pontoon, which offers both diesel and petrol.

Rubbish and Water Pontoon, with the Fuel Barge in front

The Dart Harbour Yacht Club, about a 10 minute walk from DA pontoon, allows visiting yachtsmen to use their facilities. The showers cost £2 for 5 minutes, but do get undressed before you put your token in as they start straight away! Alternatively, as we found out the next night, there are public showers at the rear of the toilet block opposite the Double Steps pontoon. They cost 20p to enter and there were 3 showers available, but they seem to close relatively early, say 5.30pm/6pm. We found them to be clean with a pleasant hot temperature (ideally we would have cranked it up a degree or two but still hot enough!) We even took the opportunity whilst we were there to do a bit of hand washing of our clothes!👍

For those that are non walk shore there are two free dinghy parks; one at the Double Steps pontoon (6 hours) and one at the Green pontoon (12 hours). You can also tie up at Dart Harbour Yacht Club on their pontoon for 2 hours.

The harbour staff here are very friendly and helpful, we even saw them asking boats to move up so other vessels could fit in (take note Tor-bay Harbour (Torquay!). On arrival they provide you with a very useful Harbour Guide, probably one of the most in depth harbour guides we’ve come across! And they are definitely ‘on it’ when it comes to payment, don’t think you could get away with a freebie here!🤣

Exploring Dartmouth

Dartmouth is one of South Devon’s most popular towns. With a colourful, quaint harbourside steeped in history and a backdrop of rolling Devonshire hills, it really is a picturesque postcard place. Various boat trips run up and down the river, or you can hire your own boat if you fancy it. Or why not hop across the river to Kingswear and take the scenic steam train journey to Paignton (we did this a few years ago and can highly recommend it, although we went the other way from Paignton to Kingswear!).

Speaking of crossing the water one of the unique ways to do this is via the Lower Ferry. It is operated using a floating platform pushed along by a tug boat. If you look closely you’ll see that even Her Majesty HRH The Queen uses it! 😜

Lower Ferry

Overlooking the town is The Britannia Royal Naval College, which has been training officers since 1863, and is the only remaining Naval College in the country. This iconic building was designed by Sir Aston Webb and was completed in 1905. It replaced two wooden hulks which were moored in the River Dart and served as the base for the cadets. They regularly hold college tours but unfortunately none were available during our stay, and by all accounts the spaces fill up fast so get in there quick if this is of interest to you! You can find availability at http://www.britanniaassociation.org.uk/tours/ and don’t forget your I.D as it is requested before entry.

Britannia Royal Naval College

A walk along the coast to Dartmouth Castle is also recommended. The castle has guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary for over 600 years and, along with Kingswear Castle on the opposite side, makes for a memorable approach for any sailor! The castle is now owned by English heritage and is open to the public. Also pop into St Petrox Church next door, a medieval church which was possibly founded by St Petrox himself, a 6th century monk, and take a break at the Dartmouth Castle Tea Rooms; their bacon and sausage Bap was exceptionally tasty!

St Petrox Church

We also visited Greenway, the holiday home of the famous author Agatha Christie. Now owned by the National Trust, Greenway sits in a beautiful woodland leading down to the river. We hopped on the Greenway Ferry from Dartmouth (£10pp return) which gave us a scenic cruise along the river before we arrived at Greenway. Entry fee here was £13 per person. The Georgian house is still furnished with items from Agatha’s life including collections and books. Outside the gardens offer a place to sit and relax, surrounded by beautiful colours from the huge array of plants. Top tip: Bring a picnic and take one of the benches in the south walled garden! Meander through the trails where you will eventually end up down at the boathouse, known to Agatha Christie readers as the place where Marlene Tucker was strangled in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’. In fact a number of scenes of the ITV adaptation of ‘Dead Man’s Folly’ were filmed at Greenway!

Greenway House, holiday home of Agatha Christie

And finally, if you have any energy left, a hike to the top of Jawbone Hill overlooking Dartmouth is definitely worth it for the incredible views it rewards you with, just watch out for cow poop in the grass!

Views from Jawbone Hill

Shopping in Dartmouth

If you’re after some nautical attire then Dartmouth certainly won’t disappoint! Some of the names you can find here include Quba, Seasalt, Reef Knots, Crew Clothing, Joules and Weird Fish, to name but a few! You will also find a large selection of boutique shops selling local arts, jewellery and gifts. Pop into the Paul Barclay shop where you will find a variety of merchandise, clothing and illustrations. Paul is an Illustrator to the Superyacht and International Navies and is one of the leading artists in the South West. His distinctive font can be found on many signs, shop fronts and products around Dartmouth!

For food supplies you will find a Co-op and a M&S Outlet in the town centre. For those after a bigger shop, a Sainsbury’s and a Lidl are about a 1.5 mile walk up from the town. There are a handful of bakeries selling fresh bread, pastries, pasties and cakes, and a butchers, which unfortunately we kept missing!

A Firework Finale!

On our final night we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display. The naval college were holding a special event in celebration of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Tickets were unfortunately sold out, which was a shame because it looked quite good! But being on DA pontoon, directly underneath the college, meant we got to enjoy the display from the cockpit of our yacht, a fitting end to our time in Delightful Dartmouth!

Whilst we could have stayed longer and explored further upstream, we had more places to discover down west. And with the weather in our favour it was time to hoist those sails again!

VIDEO: Discovering Dartmouth

Check out our little video on Dartmouth and if you like it please give it a thumbs up – we’d really appreciate it!

Our next sailing destination was Salcombe, just a short sail along the coast around Start Point. Check out our next post to continue our voyage.

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